DORA, Ala.--How long did it take you to break that New Year's resolution -- to stop credit spending or concentrate on paying off credit card debt?
For many, it was only a matter of days. Why? We are continually bombarded with opportunities to "play" now, pay later. "No payments, no interest, until April of 2005!" advertisers shout their enticements.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who chose this deferred plan of payment. One of the most familiar is that of King David -- see II Samuel 11. Seeing a beautiful woman, David sent servants to inquire about her. They returned with the news that she was married to one of the king's own soldiers, Uriah.
Here was the red flag that should have stopped David. Here was his chance to repent of having looked with lust upon another man's wife
before his thoughts ever went any further.
But instead, David had her brought into his chambers, and the account goes on to relate that Bathsheba became pregnant and David sought to hide their adulterous liaison. He tried to get Uriah to go home to his wife so that it would be assumed he had fathered the child, but the honorable Uriah refused to walk away from his duties as a soldier. So David ordered Uriah sent to where his army was in the heaviest of fighting, and the king instructed that Uriah's fellow soldiers withdraw and leave him to be killed. The men did as they were told, and Uriah perished. David then married Bathsheba, but even this act didn't solve all his problems.
Nathan, a prophet of God, came to him and confronted him concerning his sin. David repented, but the child born of his affair with Bathsheba became ill and died. All that grief for one single moment of pleasure.
Everything has consequences, and as adults we must take the
responsibility for thinking through our choices before deciding to take any action. Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5) really impressed their fellow church members when they made a generous contribution from the proceeds of a land sale. However, when they lied about having given the entire amount from the sale, the two were struck dead.
Are you beginning to see a connection? David was into immediate
gratification: he wanted Bathsheba. He got her, but he got much more than he bargained for, including the exposure of his sin.
Ananias and Sapphira were into keeping up with the Joneses. Other
church members had sold property and given all the money to the church. And who knows? Maybe the other couples could better afford to. But then again, maybe Ananias and Sapphira were just plain ol' greedy. Whatever the case, this couple preferred the praise of men to being honest with God, and their sin was exposed and swiftly dealt with.
Immediate gratification and keeping up with the Joneses continue to be problems for believers today. The mentality is, "If I can have it now, that's all I want to think about. I'll worry about how to pay for it later."
Thus we find ourselves in a never-ending financial fiasco. What's the solution?
There is no quick fix for mutilated finances. As the old adage says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." You went into debt one single step at a time, and you'll get out one step at a time.
Second-mortgaging and rolling balances to other credit cards are like putting a tourniquet on a slashed major artery -- slowing the blood flow will not keep the patient from bleeding to death!
If your debt load is draining your pockets, stop reaching for the
tourniquet and go for the stitches!
1) Stop using your credit cards -- anything you need a credit card for, a debit card will do with real live cash.
2) Ask the Lord to forgive you for any irresponsibility and to guide you to be a better manager of the finances with which He's blessed you.
3) Trim your expenses. Reduce or cancel your cable or satellite
television service; switch your cell phone to an emergency-only
package; brown bag your lunch. Remember: The money you save will be
4) Focus on one specific debt. If the regular payment is less than
$100, pay double every month. If it's more than $100, add an extra $50 to $100. Don't fluctuate -- choose the maximum you can pay and stick to it until the debt has been resolved; then decide on your next target.
5) Tithe. If you've been giving at least 10 percent to your church,
keep doing it. If you haven't been tithing, start now and see God
faithfully reward your obedience. (Read Malachi 3:6-18).
Judy Woodward Bates is a Christian speaker; author of The Gospel Truth about Money Management; and creator of Bargainomics(r), a Bible-based time and money management philosophy. Visit her website at: www.bargainomics.com.
© 2004 Baptist Press. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.